The JDS has suspended 8 MLAs who cross voted in the recently concluded Rajya Sabha elections. With elections approaching, party which was banking on a hung assembly, is seen cracking up. JDS, the third prominent player feels in Karnataka hoped it will play the role of kingmaker, however, the contest in the state is increasingly becoming BJP versus Congress. The poaching of JDS MLAs by Congress, efforts of BJP to woo its anchor voting segment of Vokkaligas and party’s alliance with BSP not taking off on the ground, the prospects of JDS are languishing.
Last week was pretty eventful for the main contestants in Karnataka elections. Three defining incidents took place which will have significant influence over the outcome of the polls.
- Siddaramaiah cabinet forwarded the proposal granting separate religion status to Lingayats to the central government for consideration.
- The Mahasabha rejected the move of Congress government to create a divide between Lingayats and Veershaivas terming it purely political.
- 8 rebel JDS MLAs cross voted for the Congress candidate in Rajya Sabha elections jeopardizing the chances of its official candidate. JDS suspends all of them, 7 have joined Congress.
JDS is becoming less relevant, particularly because of the high handed behavior of H.D. Kumaraswamy who obviously lacks father Deve Gowda’s astuteness and acceptability. Congress has also been able to sell the story that JDS is actually playing into BJP’s hands and will tie up with the saffron party in case of a hung assembly. This is driving away minorities and backward classes who form the AHINDA block away from JDS.
The rebellion in JDS, is the second largest exodus from JDS, after Siddaramaiah along with many leaders, joined Congress just before 2008 polls and which led to JDS seat tally declining from 58 in 2004 to 28 in 2008. BSP chief Mayawati has declared open war against BJP and tied up with SP to defeat Modi in 2019. However, JDS option of hobnobbing with BJP to remain in power, also makes her cautious and prevents her from going all out to call Dalits to vote for ally JDS in the state.
Support of JDS from various caste groups (Source: CSDS)
JDS gets 35%-40% of its total votes from the upper caste (Brahmins, Lingayats and Vokkaligas), 25% from OBCs and another 35%-40% from Dalits and minorities. While BJP is eyeing the upper caste vote bank of JDS, Congress is eyeing the minority vote bank. With Siddaramiah’s pitch for division of Lingayats being rejected by the Mahasabha, BJP hopes to woo the Vokkaliga voters of JDS. A section of the community fears Siddaramiah’s backward caste politics may reduce their dominance in Karnataka politics. They fear after Lingayats, Vokkaligas could be Siddaramiah’s next target.
It’s an election which will shape the future politics of Karnataka, a win for Congress could severely dent the hold of Lingayats and Vokkaligas in Karnataka. The present Assembly has 103 MLAs (almost half of total strength) from the two communities, 53 Vokkaligas and 50 Lingayats which is almost 2x of their population size. Karnataka has till date had five chief ministers from the Vokkaliga community, and seven have been Lingayats. BJP is trying to exploit this fear of losing dominance and becoming irrelevant.
Vokkaligas account for 12% of the population and are the dominant peasant caste of Old Mysuru. Around half of them have traditionally backed JDS. The caste census, which allegedly portrays a decline in their population has angered the community against Siddaramaiah. Vokkaligas in Old Mysore may still vote for JDS, however in seats where JDS is weak, they might back the BJP. Community has influence over 130 odd seats in the state. This could provide an additional 3%-5% vote share to BJP from the Vokkaligas. In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP received the highest support from Vokkaligas (38%) followed by JDS (31%) and Congress (29%).
While JDS fancies a hung assembly, its chances are pretty low according to noted political scientist, Dr. Shastri. He cited two reasons to OneIndia why the state will not witness a hung assembly:
- The fact that the Janata Dal has been limited to small pockets of influence would ensure that the party would end up a distant third.
- This year no political transition is taking place unlike 1983 and 2004. A hung assembly is seen when the state is in political transition.
This is evident from the fact that voters are increasingly giving clear mandate in states, except smaller states. BJP election machinery does well against incumbent governments, it has won 13 elections after May 2014. BJP is trying to form an axis of the Lingayat and Vokkaliga voters accounting for 29% of population and banking on the Modi jadoo to sail it through. According to a TOI survey, Modi is most popular in Hindi heartland (80%) and Karnataka (79%), surprisingly way more than even his home state Gujarat (68%). With JDS weakening, BJP hopes to form an umbrella alliance of Brahmins, Lingayats, Vokkaligas and OBCs to edge past Congress in Karnataka.